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The Mayor of Houston’s recent subpoena of sermons by Christian pastors in the country’s fourth largest city is a shocking violation of First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion. There is no clearer violation of First Amendment freedoms than for government officials to attempt to censor religious speech.
The Mayor of Houston’s recent subpoena of sermons by Christian pastors in the country’s fourth largest city is a shocking violation of First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion. There is no clearer violation of First Amendment freedoms than for government officials to attempt to censor religious speech.
Lawyers for the Christian pastors were prepared to sue to quash these subpoenas — and would have succeeded quickly in the courts on Constitutional grounds – when the Mayor withdrew the subpoenas amid an uproar of protest.
So why would Annise Parker, the Houston mayor, issue such subpoenas at all if a court would have stopped her from forcing the pastors to comply? Probably because she is playing for much larger political and constitutional stakes than the power to coerce disclosure of the communications five Houston pastors.
Her signature initiative–the so-called “bathroom bill”, a city ordinance that she championed and signed last May–is being threatened by a public campaign to repeal it in a referendum . The City has challenged the validity of the signatures the citizens collected to force a vote on the ordinance, which led a group of them to sue the City. Mayor Parker responded by subpoenaing five Houston pastors who oppose the ordinance, but who are not even parties to the lawsuit.
In politics, if politicians are not succeeding in their arguments, they change the subject. And Mayor Parker apparently is not succeeding in her defense of a law that opponents claim creates a right, among other newly created sexual and gender identity rights, for anyone to use public bathrooms of the opposite sex in the name of gender rights equality.
Losing her own argument, she’s changing the subject. And if you’re a liberal mayor trying to create new sexual and gender identity rights, there’s apparently no better object on which to refocus the public than the Christian pastors and their beliefs on gender and sexuality.
An attempt to set up the pastors as the foil to her radical agenda would explain the Mayor’s outrageous subpoenas, which demand, among other things, all of the pastors’ emails, texts, and sermons relating to the bathroom bill, the Mayor, the City attorney, restroom access under the bathroom bill, the topics of homosexuality or gender identity, and the petition drive to repeal the bathroom bill. And it would explain the Mayor’s tweet the morning after the subpoenas came to light: “If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?-A”
(“HERO” is an acronym for the “bathroom bill” ordinance.)
Clearly the Mayor is trying to shift the debate from a fight over the merits of her sexual and gender identity agenda to a fight over the Christian worldview of sexual ethics. That’s exactly what the subpoenas were intended to accomplish.
There are three reasons why she might have expected this to be effective.
First, Mayor Parker likely believed that issuing the subpoenas, even if later withdrawn, would cause Houston pastors to think twice about criticizing her or her bathroom bill. She would not be the first politician to harass and attempt to intimidate people with opposing beliefs. The right response to such intimidation is for citizens of all stripes to vote out of office those politicians who practice it.
Second, in the case of pastors, Mayor Parker is clearly aware that there is a provision of U.S. tax law that already tends to chill the speech of some pastors from the pulpit. Known as the “Johnson Amendment” because it was authored by then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, the statute states that tax-exempt organizations–churches, for instance–may not “participate in, or intervene in…any political campaign on behalf of…any candidate for public office.”
Although the 1954 Johnson Amendment is brazenly in conflict with the free speech and free exercise protections of the First Amendment, Mayor Parker implicitly threatens the churches’ tax-exempt status when she attacks pastors who dare to challenge her ideological agenda. Again the goal is to have pastors back off their criticisms.
The right response to this long-standing threat is for Congress to repeal the Johnson Amendment at the first opportunity. Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC) has a very simple bill to do just that.
Third, there is now an established and successful political and constitutional strategy to paint the protection of traditional moral values — and opposition to newly-invented sexual and gender identity rights — as motivated by malice. In the 2013 Supreme Court decision (United States v. Windsor) that invalidated Congress’ enacted definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that the only purpose of those who supported this traditional definition of marriage was to “disparage,” ”injure,” “degrade,” ”demean,” and “humiliate” certain groups of fellow citizens.
In a word, hate is all that Justice Kennedy sees when he encounters someone who supports a traditional definition of marriage. Under this newly-invented constitutional standard, if the Court feels today that a particular law is hateful, then the Court will simply invalidate the law, no further justification needed. And it will do so whether or not a vast majority of the public believes reasonable people can disagree about the definition of marriage in particular and about sexual ethics more generally.
We can be confident that Mayor Parker has taken note of Justice Kennedy’s insidious two-part strategy of (1) making skeptics of the left’s sexual and gender identity agenda into “enemies of humanity”, to paraphrase Justice Scalia, and (2) thereby ending political debate over these newly-invented sexual rights by declaring them constitutional rights beyond public debate. Mayor Parker’s attention-grabbing subpoenas of five Christian pastors seems intended to do just that – to persuade the public that ‘these are the hateful haters who oppose my agenda to conjure up new constitutional rights.’
In other words, under the Kennedy-Parker telling, if you are against the Mayor’s law to let anyone in America’s fourth largest city go into any bathroom he (or she?) wants on any given day, then you must be a hateful bigot–one of those intolerant Christians who hates people who don’t think like they do. In the Kennedy-Parker telling, you must be one of those Christians who are using their pulpits to ‘impose their beliefs on the rest of us.’
If this analysis is wrong, Mayor Parker can clear this up by answering these two questions: 1) Does she believe that everyone who does not support her bathroom bill is a hateful bigot? 2) Does she support a citywide referendum on her bathroom bill?
The right response to the supersized intimidation and anti-democratic pretensions of the Justice Kennedys and Mayor Parkers of this country is faithfulness on the part of Christians and a political awakening on the part of all citizens.
It is sad that liberals fight so hard to enable voter fraud.
Could control of the Senate in 2014 be decided by illegal votes cast by non-citizens? Some argue that incidents of voting by non-citizens are so rare as to be inconsequential, with efforts to block fraud a screen for an agenda to prevent poor and minority voters from exercising the franchise, while others define such incidents as a threat to democracy itself. Both sides depend more heavily on anecdotes than data.
In a forthcoming article in the journal Electoral Studies, we bring real data from big social science survey datasets to bear on the question of whether, to what extent, and for whom non-citizens vote in U.S. elections. Most non-citizens do not register, let alone vote. But enough do that their participation can change the outcome of close races.
Our data comes from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Its large number of observations (32,800 in 2008 and 55,400 in 2010) provide sufficient samples of the non-immigrant sub-population, with 339 non-citizen respondents in 2008 and 489 in 2010. For the 2008 CCES, we also attempted to match respondents to voter files so that we could verify whether they actually voted.
How many non-citizens participate in U.S. elections? More than 14 percent of non-citizens in both the 2008 and 2010 samples indicated that they were registered to vote. Furthermore, some of these non-citizens voted. Our best guess, based upon extrapolations from the portion of the sample with a verified vote, is that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.
Estimated Voter Turnout by Non-Citizens
Self reported and/or verified 38 (11.3%) 13 (3.5%)
Self reported and verified 5 (1.5%) N.A.
Adjusted estimate 21 (6.4%) 8 (2.2%)
Because non-citizens tended to favor Democrats (Obama won more than 80 percent of the votes of non-citizens in the 2008 CCES sample), we find that this participation was large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections. Non-citizen votes could have given Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health-care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) won election in 2008 with a victory margin of 312 votes. Votes cast by just 0.65 percent of Minnesota non-citizens could account for this margin. It is also possible that non-citizen votes were responsible for Obama’s 2008 victory in North Carolina. Obama won the state by 14,177 votes, so a turnout by 5.1 percent of North Carolina’s adult non-citizens would have provided this victory margin.
We also find that one of the favorite policies advocated by conservatives to prevent voter fraud appears strikingly ineffective. Nearly three quarters of the non-citizens who indicated they were asked to provide photo identification at the polls claimed to have subsequently voted.
An alternative approach to reducing non-citizen turnout might emphasize public information. Unlike other populations, including naturalized citizens, education is not associated with higher participation among non-citizens. In 2008, non-citizens with less than a college degree were significantly more likely to cast a validated vote, and no non-citizens with a college degree or higher cast a validated vote. This hints at a link between non-citizen voting and lack of awareness about legal barriers.
There are obvious limitations to our research, which one should take account of when interpreting the results. Although the CCES sample is large, the non-citizen portion of the sample is modest, with the attendant uncertainty associated with sampling error. We analyze only 828 self-reported non-citizens. Self-reports of citizen status might also be a source of error, although the appendix of our paper shows that the racial, geographic, and attitudinal characteristics of non-citizens (and non-citizen voters) are consistent with their self-reported status.
Another possible limitation is the matching process conducted by Catalyst to verify registration and turnout drops many non-citizen respondents who cannot be matched. Our adjusted estimate assumes the implication of a “registered” or “voted” response among those who Catalyst could not match is the same as for those whom it could. If one questions this assumption, one might focus only on those non-citizens with a reported and validated vote. This is the second line of the table.
Finally, extrapolation to specific state-level or district-level election outcomes is fraught with substantial uncertainty. It is obviously possible that non-citizens in California are more likely to vote than non-citizens in North Carolina, or vice versa. Thus, we are much more confident that non-citizen votes mattered for the Minnesota Senate race (a turnout of little more than one-tenth of our adjusted estimate is all that would be required) than that non-citizen votes changed the outcome in North Carolina.
Our research cannot answer whether the United States should move to legalize some electoral participation by non-citizens as many other countries do, and as some U.S. states did for more than 100 years, or find policies that more effectively restrict it. But this research should move that debate a step closer to a common set of facts.
“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.
At the end of 2004, during one of our services, the Lord told our church this: “I your God have gone ahead of you and I have already been to your future. I have seen it. And I declare that it is good.”
Although this word was given through me to our church, I believe that it is not only for our church, but also for every member of the body of Christ.
I tell you, when God declares your future good, it will be good! It will be filled with many wonderfully good days!
So what do you do when the Lord tells you that you are going to have a good future loaded with His blessings? You prepare for it! In other words, before the blessings come, before the increase comes, He wants you to enlarge the place of your tent and stretch forth the curtains of your dwellings.
For example, if you are believing God for a child, start reading books on babies and preparing the baby’s room. In fact, prepare to have more than one child. Start looking for a bigger place for your family for God says, “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.” Get ready for expansion!
My friend, God wants you to get ready, and expect such favor and increase in the days ahead that “you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited”. (Isaiah 54:3)
Because God has declared your future good, know that you stand on favor ground today. Expect good things to happen to you. Expect to see the favor of God on you and your family. Expect the blessings and increase of the Lord. Expect many good days to show up in your life!
Jesus cries out laments against the Jewish cities most exposed to his miracles; none are known to have been particularly hostile to Jesus, but their reception was not close to commensurate with their opportunity. Following the ancient Near Eastern practice of judgment oracles against other nations, prophets like Isaiah (13-23), Jeremiah (46-51), Ezekiel (25-32) and Amos (1:3-2:3) denounced the sins of various nations in succession.
Jesus cries out laments against the Jewish cities most exposed to his miracles; none are known to have been particularly hostile to Jesus, but their reception was not close to commensurate with their opportunity. Following the ancient Near Eastern practice of judgment oracles against other nations, prophets like Isaiah (13-23), Jeremiah (46-51), Ezekiel (25-32) and Amos (1:3-2:3) denounced the sins of various nations in succession. Like the biblical prophets, however, Jesus also prophesies woes against those who claim to be God's people (as in Is 22; Jer 2-11; Ezek 24; Amos 2:4-3:8; Mic 1:9-15). Like the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:14-15, Capernaum thought highly of itself, but Jesus teaches that people's response to himself and his message will determine their standing at the coming judgment (Witherington 1990:167).
This narrative warns that God judges peoples according to the opportunities they have had to respond to his truth. This is not to say that anyone is without some light and therefore escapes punishment, but to say that those who know best-in our day perhaps those who grow up in loving Christian homes-yet reject the truth will be punished most severely (Lk 12:47-48; Rom 2:12-16; 12:19-20; Rev 9:20-21). Those who claim to be God's people are often the most hardhearted hearers of all (see comment on Mt 2:1-12). Tyre, Sidon and Sodom would have repented, but God's people took the signs for granted (compare 2:4-11).
God often judges corporately for corporate sin. Sometimes large groups of people lead others to starve or slaughter opponents in war; those who profit from or approve of the sins of their allies will suffer judgment along with the actual perpetrators of the acts. Sometimes entire cities or nations withhold God's truth from their children, perpetuating a hardness against God for generation after generation. In such cases, judgment may be God's primary means of gaining the people's attention (as in Ex 7:5, 17; 9:14; 10:2; Is 26:9-10; 28:9-13; 29:9-14).
Last month’s e-letter was sent out in response to the way many churches malign their leaders over small and trivial matters such as carpet color or the songs sung during worship. Far too many sheep seem to think their pastors are like Ahab, who sold himself to evil. There is a massive difference between evil and carpet color. I was not intending last month’s e-letter to be specifically applied to some of those national ministries that have recently fallen.
There is no gift or anointing that is above Scripture, and yes, there are sins that require confrontation. However, our response to the moral decay we are witnessing in the Body of Christ today must include God’s will, His timing and His heart both for the person and for the gift. In the quagmire of all of this, there are times to act, times to speak up, times to keep quiet and times to step back and allow God to bring justice Himself. Moses stepped back, and God acted with Korah (Numbers 16). Peter took one step forward by addressing the sin and then let God do the rest with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). Knowing God’s ways is essential to knowing the type of action to take with any sin.
As sin continues to abound and accelerate, the understanding of this subject will become more and more important. Discerning holiness, God’s justice and the consequences of sin is vital and will become a distinction between those who desire righteousness as a way of life and those who simply view it as an idea or concept.
We are experiencing a massive decline in the moral and ethical fiber of the Western Church today. Sin management has become the norm, and the apostolic exhortation that demands deep sorrow over sin as evidence of repentance has seemingly been discarded as “lacking in grace.” Thus pastors who divorce their wives, commit adultery with one or more women, father illegitimate children, view porn, visit prostitutes and secretly record video of women in skirts on escalators and stairways are allowed to remain in ministry, or within a few months are rushed back into ministry. All of this is allowed because of the supposed need for their incredible anointing.
In some cases, the church body actually stood to applaud the minister after his or her confession. Interviews with some of the parishioners were surprising in that they seemed to think the humanness of their leader somehow alleviated the weight of their own sin. So sin in the flock now becomes justified by sin in the pulpit.
‘Didn’t I heal in Your name...?’
I am now convinced that if we haven’t already seen it, we soon will see Matthew 7 played out in the lives of many who heal, prophesy and cast out demons. Blindly, the Body of Christ will accept them as anointed leaders — even though, according to this passage, these men and women one day will not be allowed to enter the gates of Heaven.
Evidently, Jesus did not consider signs and wonders to be proof of ministry fruitfulness. If signs and wonders were the litmus test for righteousness in ministries, how would we be able to distinguish between the Holy and the profane — as healings, prophecy and miracles are seen in both?
‘What do You mean You don’t know me?’
Perhaps even more bizarre is that those who did these signs and wonders written about in Matthew 7:20–23 were actually surprised when they were not allowed to enter Heaven. Clearly, they believed that the miracles they performed were more important than intimacy with God, which would have transformed them and shown them the Father’s heart in the matter. I am afraid that many of those in ministry today believe that signs and wonders are God’s endorsement of their ministries and lifestyles. Instead, we must ask the difficult question: “If signs and wonders are an endorsement of God on a ministry, how could Matthew 7 be true?”
As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 8:11, “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” In other words, the apparent delay in judgment is taken to mean God condones their sin.
Judging the fruit versus the heart
Scripture commands us to test the fruit, not the motivation of the heart. Judging the heart is for God and God alone (Romans 14:12). He is the only One who knows our thoughts and intentions.
A friend of mine, Sid Molenaar, recently reminded me, “It is dangerous to follow any ministry without weighing and testing that ministry.” Yes, God’s anointed men and women are capable of stumbling, and yes, I believe the Bible directs us not to “touch” them in a harmful way, verbally or otherwise; however, like most things in life, this, too, must be balanced. You might remember that in the moment when David could have killed Saul in the cave, he chose not to (1 Samuel 24). That does not mean David did not recognize Saul’s problems, and one could assume they were discussed that day in the confines of the cave.
What fruit should we look for?
Healings, miracles, signs and wonders are not fruit; they are gifts, and that being the case, what fruit are we to look for in any ministry?
Do the people have a greater love and concern for others than they have for themselves?
Do they radiate a contagious joy that others feel and take on?
Do they ooze a tranquil peace when life’s events do not go the way they anticipated?
Do they show a steadfastness or unwavering nature in the midst of long suffering, betrayal or deep disappointment?
Do they display gentleness with others who appear weaker or less capable?
Do they have an overriding goodness that seeks the wellbeing of others over their own wellbeing?
Do they have a faith in the unseen and the “not yet” purposes of God?
Do they radiate a meekness or softness, evidenced by how they handle others when they disagree with them?
Do they display a temperance or an ability to master their passions and desires?
These nine points are found in Galatians 5 and are noted as fruit of the Spirit. All deeply spiritual people will have fruit that is spiritual. Why? Because thorns produce thorns and grapes produce grapes. That which is Spirit will always have spiritual fruit.
There must be a change in the moral fiber of the Church, because the culture is not to blame for the condition of the Church, but the Church is to blame for the condition of the culture. When the Church actually begins to behave like the Body of Christ, we will see the fruit of that — not only in our pastors and ministers but also in our judicial systems and in our politicians. In other words, the culture will reflect the Church’s passion for Jesus.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Saul, first king of Israel. God chose this young man to be the leader of His people. He anointed him and gave him favor; however, Saul did not handle God’s anointing well. Much was entrusted to him, and he failed. The sins he committed had severe and public consequences, one of which was that God removed the kingship from him and gave it to another man, a shepherd named David.
Here, we come across something surprising: God removed the kingdom from Saul; He did not remove the anointing.
Many of us know men and women of God who have committed grievous, public sins. They fell. They made Christianity look bad to the rest of the world. They hurt a lot of people, and today, they may or may not be sorry for it. Having witnessed their shortcomings, it would be very easy for us to pass judgment on them. But before we do, we need to remember the anointing.
There is a reason the Bible clearly says, “Touch not My anointed” (1 Chronicles 16:22). Doing so can be dangerous. Saul was obviously operating out of the flesh. He tried to kill David; he tried to kill his own son. But he still carried the anointing. David recognized that and refused to harm the man, even though no one would have faulted him for doing so. The man had tried to kill him! Nevertheless, David let God bring judgment and chose not to lay a finger on Saul.
God is the One who directs His anointing. He is the One who removes it or pours it out. We need to be very careful what we say about our brothers and sisters who have fallen and maybe even left the ministry. We don’t have a right to speak against them.
The anointing is dependent on God
We are “anointed” when God puts a measure of His Spirit in us, and that measure resides with us. Similar to oil, the anointing has a tendency to leave a residue on almost everything it touches.
When people carry God’s anointing, that anointing touches us when we come near them. We aren’t touched by the people themselves or their charisma. The anointing is not dependent on what those people say, do or think; it is not dependent on how appropriately they act. It is dependent on God.
In a way, the anointing is like the wind. We don’t know where it’s going next, but we do know when it’s present. God chooses when the anointing resides and when it leaves. If it resides, it resides to serve God’s purpose. This is why it’s important not to speak against our family — our brothers and sisters who have made mistakes and poor choices. We are not the One who determines where the anointing should go and what it should do next. If David was not willing to touch Saul, a twisted, sinful man who never truly changed, then we should not be willing to touch God’s anointed, either. In due time, God delivered to David everything He had promised him and more.
In conclusion, I would like to leave you with a few thoughts to ponder. Would Israel’s history be different now if David had responded to Saul the way many of us would have responded to him? How much do our words delay or escalate our destinies? What if our potential has been stifled because of the judgments we have made and the words we have spoken against God’s anointed fallen?
The Bible says that in the last days, men’s hearts will fail them for fear. I believe we live in an era that has been prophesied for millennia.
The earth suffers all manner of geophysical, economic, political, religious, and war issues. We see fear mounting in the hearts of men and women across the globe. Truly, it is a difficult time — for those who don’t know God. However, for those who do know God, this time doesn’t need to be difficult. If we are willing, it could be the most exciting time of our lives.
In Judges 7 when Gideon finally realized there was no reason for him to be afraid anymore, the Bible says he “worshipped.” The Hebrew word used here for worshipimplies that you first bow in humility, then you stand to your feet, raise your hands and in a loud voice proclaim God’s glory. That is a very brave thing to do when you’re right outside the enemy’s camp.
But something had happened to this man, who had once hidden from his enemies in a winepress and described himself as the weakest person he knew. Essentially, he stood up, and in the face of all his fears, he declared, “You can’t kill me! Nothing you can do can harm me. I can defeat you. The angel has said it. God has shown it. I will do it.”
Fear and faith
It is difficult for fear and faith to exist in their fullness in the same place at the same time. Both are the belief that something that hasn’t happened is going to happen. Fear is the expectation of something bad, and faith is the expectation of something good. One cancels out, or neutralizes, the other, and one or the other is going to exist as the plumb line of a person’s life.
Fear produces a desperate survivalist mentality. We dare not help the person next to us because if we do, we might fall off the cliff ourselves. The more self-concerned and self-focused we are, the fewer people we impact, because all of our effort and energy is consumed with ourselves. Gideon was hiding in a winepress! What impact did he have on his community while in a winepress?
Yet it was there, in the winepress, that God met him and proclaimed him to be a mighty man of valor. The winepress was not his destiny, though he clearly thought it was. Instead, God called him a hero, and a hero is what he became.
Out of weakness made strong
The people of God are not born strong. We becomestrong:
"And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword,out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle."
Out of weakness, God’s people are made strong. We become valiant in battle. We don’t start out valiant — we become valiant.
The enemy has created a realm of fear to keep us shackled to inaccurate images and concepts of who we are. But God wants to take you and raise you up as a hero. He wants to take the “impossible” destiny He has written for you and bring it into existence.
I will never forget what the Lord once spoke to me: There is no limit to what I can do if you can restore hope in the heart of the people.
Faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). What do you hope to become? Who has God called you to be? The day is coming when you, like Gideon, will stand before your foes and declare, “YOU ARE DEFEATED!”
Nature Versus the Central Planners
All Central Planning Is Impossible
AUGUST 01, 1995 by ROBERT A. PETERSON
For the past 100 years, central planners have used the language and methods of science to explain and justify their attempts to fine-tune most of the world’s advanced economies. Pointing to the successes of researchers in the hard sciences, they have led people to believe that a little inflation here or a lot of regulation there can actually fine-tune an economy–the same way a mechanic can adjust the points, set the timing, and put new spark plugs in a classic car engine.
Using the veneer of scientific language, government officials explain how in five years a deficit will be reduced, or how so many shoes or tanks will be produced, or how so much health care will be made available. Like some ancient soothsayer, the official economist looks for good omens in the economic data and tells the ruler or rulers what they want to hear. When the projected results don’t materialize in democratic countries, we are told it was merely because the central planners weren’t skilled enough. Just find enough Rhodes scholars, create a Brain Trust, and all will be well.
There’s only one problem with this kind of thinking: the very nature of the universe makes all central planning impossible.
Man’s inability to control the economy is nowhere more graphically illustrated than in our helplessness before the weather. All of life depends on agriculture, and successful harvests depend on “good” weather. No economist can predict prolonged years of cold weather, such as Europe experienced in the Middle Ages when the Baltic Sea froze over, destroying the seaborne trade of the Hanseatic League. The Japanese have kept meticulous records for over 1,000 years of when the cherry trees blossomed, but no one can predict when they will bloom next year, or if they will be killed by a late frost. No one could have predicted the destructiveness caused by the Great Blizzard of 1888, or the ravages of Hurricane Andrew (which cost over $20 billion, and destroyed some insurance companies in the process). And no amount of emergency planning by any level of government was able to hold back the Mississippi in 1993.
When forecasters do successfully predict a change in the weather, it’s almost always by accident. The Old Farmer’s Almanac got its lasting claim to fame back in 1815, when editor Robert B. Thomas was so sick in bed that, he told his assistant to “leave him alone” and “just write anything for July 13th.” The assistant did just that and for that day wrote “Rain, hail, and snow.” Thomas and Co. couldn’t have known it, but about that same time Mt. Tambora in Indonesia was erupting, spewing millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, which circled the globe, deflecting the sun’s light and heat, causing the infamous “Year With out a Summer.” Farmers wore their greatcoats in the fields, only to shake their heads in disbelief at the meager harvest. And yes, on July 13, it really did rain, hail, and snow in the Eastern United States.
The cool summer of 1992—when vast acres of Midwestern cornfields were declared federal disaster areas—was also caused by a volcanic eruption, this time from Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines. When Pinatubo erupted, 25 million tons of sulfur dioxide were blasted into the atmosphere. The effect on America’s summer economy that year was devastating. Utilities, previously thought recession-proof, saw their sales of kilowatts plunge as people and businesses used less power for air conditioners. Sales of patio, pool, and sports equipment plummeted, and people sipped fewer soft drinks.
One government economist said that the floods in the Midwest in 1993 would have “no overall negative effect” on the economy. That, of course, is absurd: people’s lives were changed forever, personal plans and fortunes were dashed, and the agricultural heartland of America was crippled.
Not only is the economy subject to the weather, but also to what might be called “quantum changes” in history. Our world has always been–and is now–subject to major changes that make tomorrow quite different from yesterday. Sometimes such quantum changes are the result of an invention. Most historians agree, for example, that those of us who live in the West might all be speaking Arabic today had it not been for the invention of the stirrup. At Tours, Charles Martel’s Frankish cavalry had stirrups, while the Moors did not. As a result, the Western European forces were victorious. Other times quantum changes are brought about by a mutant virus, to which a certain population has developed no immunities. In modern times, quantum changes may come from the actions of a lone entrepreneur or group of investors. Fiber optics would still be in the research and development stage had not an upstart little company, MCI—financed by junk bonds that were marketed by the much-maligned Michael Milken–taken on AT&T. IBM would still stand astride the business world like a colossus had it not been for the ideas of kids like Steven Jobs and Bill Gates. Thousands of jobs were lost at IBM, and the company’s equity was cut in half. Meanwhile, millions of people have been empowered by the ever-expanding capabilities of the affordable personal computer.
Today, the world economy is being driven not so much by raw materials, but by creative minds and the software and computer chips they produce. George Gilder has written extensively of this quantum technology both in Forbes and in his 1989 book, Microcosm. “Quantum technology devalues what the State is good at controlling: material resources, geographic ties, physical wealth,” Gilder writes. “Quantum technology exalts the one domain the State can finally never reach or ever raid: mind. Thus the move from the industrial era to the quantum era takes the world from a technology of control to the dictionary of freedom…. We live in an epoch when desertbound Israel can use computerized farming to supply 80% of the cut flowers in some European markets and compete in selling avocados in Florida; when barren Japan can claim to be number one in economic growth; and when tiny islands like Singapore and Hong Kong can far outproduce Argentina or Indonesia.”
No one knows what the next major quantum changes will be in our world, least of all government officials. For political reasons, the State always overcommits itself to older, existing technologies and large companies who find it difficult to change and retool for the future. That is one of the great weaknesses of national industrial policy. Moreover, when the State crowds out all entrepreneurs, it leaves itself as the only institution effectively planning for the future. If it plans for seven fat years but gets seven lean ones instead, the entire society suffers. That is why the old Soviet Union had “bad weather” for 70 years.
In a free society, however, thousands of entrepreneurs and millions of consumers make their own individual plans for the future. Some are cautious and save their cash; others are courageous risk-takers and expand their businesses and services. Those who correctly gauge future conditions will be successful; those who fail will have to go to work for others.
The unpredictability of the weather and the possibility of quantum changes make it impossible for the State to control our economy or predict future needs. For most of this century, the state capitalists of the Communist world almost always guessed wrong, and were then bailed out by those entrepreneurs in the West who correctly anticipated future conditions.
But there’s one more factor that is perhaps the most complex of all. In his seminars at New York University and in Human Action, Ludwig von Mises demonstrated that an economy’s performance is based on the decisions of millions of people, not just in one place but all over the world. These millions of people make economic decisions, based on their own wants, needs, hopes, prejudices, and worldviews. Sometimes they act in groups, often they act alone. In America, we put diamonds on a woman’s hand; in India, they sew them into their clothing as their currency of last resort and pass them down through their families. In the West, experts have pronounced the death sentence on gold, time and again, for nearly a century. Yet in the Far East, economic growth is creating a demand for gold unlike anything seen for a generation. Individual Chinese want gold for the security and prestige it brings, thus driving world gold prices higher.
Many talented people, like Mother Teresa, willingly choose fields in which they not only know they will not get rich, but may very well live in poverty and disease. Some people–we call them martyrs–give up not only their wealth but their lives for an idea or belief.
Mises waited ten years before he finally asked his sweetheart, Margit, to marry him. Both he and Margit believed that his economic works and his struggle to destroy socialism were so important that they postponed their marriage until her children were on their own. Fortunately they did finally marry and Margit became a partner in his work.
Through much of his work, Mises argued that a central authority could never successfully direct human action on a wide scale. In fact, Mises pointed out, government intervention almost always results in the exact opposite of what policymakers are trying to achieve. A recent case illustrates Mises’ point. When, toward the end of the Bush administration, the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates to try to stimulate the economy, people who depended on interest for income (now 15 percent of the American population, and growing) lost much of their purchasing power. Here’s another case: In the 1960s, the United States embarked on a program called the “Great Society” to wipe out poverty. Today, millions of Americans linger in poverty because those welfare programs encouraged the breakup of the family economic unit.
For centuries, philosophers and poets have written about the unpredictability of life. Modern liberals might say that that is precisely why we need central planning—to give us security from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, as Shakespeare put it. But as history has shown, the only guarantee the State can provide is one of shared misery and poverty. If society is poor, it cannot generate enough wealth to take care of the elderly.
When medical care is scarce, there’s no security against the simplest of diseases. It was modern capitalism that gave us penicillin, the polio vaccine, the concept of retirement, and so many other blessings that most people take for granted.
In the end, as a modern Robert Burns might say, the “best laid schemes of mice and governments oft go astray.” That’s why the best that we can do is allow millions of people to make their own plans for the future. It is simply not in the nature of things for central planning to work.
Would Central Planning fall under socialism or Fascism or possibly both to some degree?
New York: Controversy surrounds pistol permit application asking for Facebook information
There's a reason we create private passwords for our social media accounts: the information contained therein is private.
We're often warned not to give out these passwords — but how do we react if the police ask for them? That's what appeared to have happened in Watervliet recently, where a form included in the city's pistol permit application included a blank line for applicants to fill-in "Facebook & Password."
The battle over subpoenas issued by the city of Houston for pastors’ speeches and other communications has taken yet another turn, with a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights penning a letter to Mayor Annise Parker, lambasting the information request.
Commissioner Peter Kirsanow, who opened his letter by noting that he was writing on his own accord and not on behalf of the entire commission, warned that the city’s pastoral requests “threaten to have a chilling effect on religious and political speech that is protected by the First Amendment.”
“Although non-parties to a lawsuit can be required to provide information that is reasonably likely to be relevant and admissible, these subpoenas are plainly overbroad,” Kirsanow wrote.
He continued, “A subpoena that requires a pastor to turn over an e-mail to his neighbor about the details of the Equal Rights Ordinance, or a draft book chapter on the Bible and homosexuality that discusses the Equal Rights Ordinance, is clearly overbroad. “
Kirsanow continued by claiming that no government institution should require private citizens to turn over personal communications that relate to important issues of the day, noting that pastors are private citizens with free-speech like anyone else.
The commissioner also noted that the subject matter — mainly homosexuality — is tricky, as the pastors’ views on the issue and the equal rights ordnance at the center of the debate are likely shaped by their religious perspective.
“Given that the recipients of these subpoenas are pastors, it is almost inevitable that their views on homosexuality and gender identity are informed by their faith, if not almost entirely rooted in their faith,” he continued. “Indeed, the views of many people on homosexuality and gender identity are rooted in their ultimate commitments.”
He also charged that the “discovery request impermissibly probes the religious beliefs of private citizens simply because they supported a political effort.”
Kirsanow concluded that the request is an “abuse of government power” and that it appears to punish pastors for sharing political views that are predicated upon their faith.
As TheBlaze previously reported, Houston officials ignited a firestorm when they recently subpoenaed church sermons, among other documentation, from five local faith leaders.
Officials requested that these preachers deliver communications that have focused on homosexuality or the contentious equal rights ordinance, which these individuals have fervently opposed.
The subpoenas, which were issued last month, sought, “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession,” according to the Houston Chronicle.
The city later decided to remove sermons from the subpoena, but that has done little to stem the tide of criticism, considering that other communications are still included.
The move was made during discovery, as the city of Houston is defending itself against a lawsuit brought by local activists and pastors who are seeking the suspension of the controversial ordinance.
The pastors who have had their sermons subpoenaed are not parties in the lawsuit, though they are part of a coalition of more than 400 preachers and churches in the Houston area who are opposed to portions of the city’s non-discrimination ordinance.
The ordinance, which passed in May, has been debated for months, as the new regulations would allow transgendered individuals to file complaints if they are denied restroom usage and would ban discrimination in both business and housing.
In a city document produced earlier this year to explain the purpose of the ordinance, Houston officials argued that the city is desperately in need of increased protections based on both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
So far, the reaction to the subpoena has been swift. Pastors round the nation and around the world have reportedly been sending sermons and Bibles to Parker’s office in protest.
There’s also an evangelical-led event planned for November 2 in Houston called “I Stand Sunday,” during which well-known celebrities, politicians and preachers will meet to defend religious liberty.
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